Yesterday, Google released details about the next version of Android, bumping the version number up to 5.1 Lollipop. The new version of Android includes a number of improvements and refinements, taking into account feedback received from customers. The improvements range from the significant to the relatively minor; Google are billing the update as improving stability and performance plus bringing new features. Let's take a look at some of the changes starting with the improvements to stability and performance, because these centre around the memory leak issues that many customers have reported: Google have reportedly fixed the issue, which should mean our devices are more responsive and stable after those initial hours of use. Google have also fixed issues with devices unable to connect to certain networks and the silent mode (without vibration) is back.
The next feature is long overdue: Android 5.1 Lollipop will support HD Voice (high definition). HD Voice is a better audio quality by providing voice calling with higher bandwidth over a 3G network. VoLTE (Voice Over LTE) technology already provides customers with high-quality voice conversations, but not all carriers support VoLTE around the world and many of those that do not have provision for HD Voice calling. For those customers who use their smartphones for calling, this is a welcomed improvement.
Likely a favorite feature of Android 5.1 is the refinements to the "heads up" or toaster notifications that appear at the top of the screen. These appear for a few seconds and are designed as a discrete alert to something interesting happening elsewhere on the device. It's a great idea but, unfortunately, the 5.0 Lollipop toaster notifications are flawed because there is no way to dismiss a notification without effectively marking it as read. Sometimes, notifications don't need to be actioned straight away but are instead left in the notification tray for later. Android 5.0 Lollipop allows notifications to be swept to the side, but this permanently dismisses the notification and means you're not alerted again. The current solution is to leave the notification sitting at the top of the screen until it goes away by itself, but with Android 5.1 there's an improvement: simply swipe up to snooze the notification and be reminded later.
Google are debuting a new feature called Device Protection with Android 5.1, which connects your Android device to your Google account even through a factory reset. Google's blog states that Device Protection will be available on the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 and "most Android 'phones and tablets shipped with Android 5.1." There are improvements in connecting to WiFi and Bluetooth networks or devices from the quick settings menu. Another change is the ability to remove the additional item that popped up if you used it, typically the WiFi Hotspot, Invert Colors or Cast Screen. A long hold over this icon can declutter your Quick Settings screen if you want to (currently, you need to not use the function for a month before it is hidden).
For those customers with a dual SIM device, Android 5.1 brings enhanced support including the ability to set a different dialer theme color for each SIM, which makes it obvious what SIM card you're using. This is an improvement over older versions of dual SIM, as up until Android 4.4 all implementations of dual SIM technology were created by the original manufacturers. Android 5.0 includes some dual SIM technology but not to the same level as Android 5.1. Google's blog says that the update has already started rolling; assuming there are no problems, customers with recent Nexus devices should be seeing the update arriving over the next couple of weeks. Has it arrived for you? If not, when it does let us know and tell us what you think to the improvements.